St. Sebastian’s Classics Department hosted the Classical Association of New England’s (CANE’s) annual conference on March 17-18. Having hosted the CANE conference in 2012, St. Sebastian’s was asked to hold this year’s gathering, the first in-person conference in four years.
Michael Nerbonne, Assistant Headmaster, opened this 117th conference with an address providing an overview of St. Sebastian’s mission and the school’s strength in the study of Latin and Greek. Mr. Nerbonne’s words are below. The remainder of the conference consisted of workshops, lectures (one, Performance and Authenticity in Horace, Epistles 1.1, delivered by Andrew Horne '07), a theater performance by The Call of Kinnaru, and a reception and dinner held in Martin Hall.
Many in the St. Sebastian’s community helped make this CANE conference a great success, including:
Reception sponsors: Stephen and Roberta Ward P'24,'25,'27,'29
Student Volunteers: Neal Carlson '24, Josh Corbett '23, Connor Crane '25, Steven DeMatteo '24, Kellen Donovan '23, Will Hansen '23, Alex Roth '23, Pelle Russo '24, Cormac Walsh '24, Alex Yang '23, and Eddie Zhang '24
Maintenance Department: Francisco Baez, Eric Ludwig, Eric Ludwig Jr., Paul Panetta, and Doug Warry
Technology Staff: Ed Donovan and Paul Rossini
Security Staff: Rob Millette
Food Services: Mike Fuller, Rafael DeJesus, and Sage Dining
Faculty: Michael Nerbonne, Michael Deschenes, Stefan Cressotti, Jim Ferguson, and Paul Keady
Thanks to the efforts of all, CANE’s attendees experienced St. Sebastian’s outstanding facilities and genuine hospitality.
Address by Michael Nerbonne, Assistant Headmaster
It is my distinct honor and pleasure to welcome such an august group of educators to St. Sebastian’s. We are delighted to have you with us and are eager to make your experience here memorable, enjoyable, and rewarding.
I want to speak briefly, I promise, about two items this morning. First, I hope to give you an introduction to the mission and values of St. Sebastian’s School. Secondly, I want to say a few words about our Classics Department.
Here’s the mission statement of St. Sebastian’s and it’s just three sentences long:
A Catholic independent school, St. Sebastian’s seeks to engage young men in the pursuit of truth through faith and reason.
By embracing Gospel values in an inclusive, nurturing community and by inspiring intellectual excellence in a structured liberal arts curriculum, St. Sebastian’s strives to empower students for success in college and in life.
The ideal St. Sebastian’s graduate will be a moral and just person, a gentleman of courage, honor, and wisdom, a life-long learner who continues to grow in his capacity to know, to love, and to serve God and neighbor.
We have a shorter version: Love God, work hard and take good care of one another. As a Catholic school, one of our core values is that we are neither apologetic nor arrogant about our Catholic faith, it’s just who we are and we hope to live our faith in the most inclusive and welcoming manner possible. We are wonderfully enriched by people of other faiths or no faith tradition.
And so confident are we about the durability of our mission, and despite the ever-present dangers of damnatio memoriae, you will find these words engraved on the wood panels of the walls of the St. Sebastian’s Way which you will see when you visit the various vendors today and tomorrow.
Some of our core programs and important academic initiatives are inextricably linked to our pursuit of excellence in the classics: our signature writing, public speaking and debating programs have all been strengthened by our commitment to the study of classics in our curriculum.
Which brings me to our Classics Department. I hope that you will indulge my bragging a bit about my outstanding colleagues: Sean Albertson, Michael Deschenes, Jim Ferguson, Ellen Hinman, Paul Keady and Stefan Cressotti.
That’s a long list for a comparatively small school. We need a large classics faculty because of our average class size school-wide of 10 (but in the Classics the average class size is 8) and the fact that so many of our students elect to study Latin and Greek with no requirement that they do so. In an overall school size of 389 students, we have 143 students taking Latin or Greek this year (and a few very lucky seniors get to take both).
When we talk about our academic programs, we focus on the importance of depth and mastery in the disciplines. And our Classics Department is no exception. This year 9 students are taking AP Latin, 13 are taking Latin 4 Honors, 10 are taking the Latin 5 Advanced Seminar, 2 are taking Latin 6, and 13 seniors are taking Greek.
It is my considered opinion that so many of our students elect the study of Latin in the early years and then continue with it at the highest levels do so because of the strength of our Classics faculty. They model and demand excellence in the learning of the language and they bring an unparalleled energy and enthusiasm to their classrooms each and every day. We are remarkably blessed to have them, and I am personally so very grateful for their commitment to providing our students with the very best classical education.
Finally, a word about the importance to us of having a distinct Department of Classics. When so many secondary schools and colleges have repurposed their Classics Departments, often merging them with other related areas of study such as world language departments, St. Sebastian’s has remained committed to the mission and purpose of a Department of Classics. We have done so because of our belief in the value of the discipline as a whole and the very crucial role it has played here in developing our students academically, spiritually and intellectually.
We recently received a $1 million dollar gift from a family of two of our graduates to endow the position of Classics Department Chair. When these parents spoke about the motivation for their generosity, they emphasized both the nature of the academic experience which their boys had enjoyed here as Latin students and also the skills which they had gained because they had studied with such excellent, inspiring mentors. I like to think that their gift will go a long way to assuring the future of our Classics Department not only as a distinct academic department but also as an integral part of our overall curriculum going forward, we hope and pray, ad multos annos.